Monday, January 25, 2010

Back to the Belly

This is the weirdest phenomenon: no matter how much exercise I might be getting, I am gaining weight, and my belly's getting bigger. I recognize that this is a normal part of pregnancy, but it has been a little tough for my active side to accept. I had stopped for a moment while swimming yesterday, and a woman asked me if I was on the swim team (I'd like to think it was because of my stellar stroke, but I think it was because of my swim team cap). I told her no, and surely shocked her when my belly and I got out of the pool.
I can tell I am getting slower at everything, and tasks that used to seem effortless are no longer so. My bike commute to school includes a couple of small hills that now cause my heart to make me more aware it is there. And the constant feeling of having to pee (I know, too much information) makes the ride much less enjoyable. For the first time in twenty years, I am not running. I know I will not be riding my road bike come warm spring weather.
Yet when I run my hands over this growing belly, my perspective changes. I cannot get over the fact that there is something growing inside (now the size of a spaghetti squash and nearly a pound). This is all temporary, and is leading toward a really cool product. I can hold out another four months.
To end, I know he's still adding to this, but if you're curious about the blog that Josh is creating, you can check it out here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Departing Shots

The day before leaving Ecuador, an Ecuadorian participant in the workshop, Santiago, brought us into downtown Quito to do a bit of exploring. We spent our time in the historic section of the city, where colonial buildings and plazas are plentiful.
Micah, a workshop participant from California, in the foreground

Back at the hotel the evening before our Quito excursion, this was a common scene each evening in the cafeteria: students working with instructors to edit their work from the day

On our last night in Cumbaya, we were treated to a spectacular sunset, with rainbow and all.

Uday (from Texas), Anja (Germany) and Dave (Virginia) shooting photos

Monday, January 18, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rio Muchacho

This is quite a larger post than normal, but after taking around 400 photos during my time on the organic farm called Rio Muchacho off the coast of Ecuador, it was hard to decide what to include!
After an all night bus ride from Quito to Bahía, on the Pacific coast, three others from Quito and I rode on a bicycle taxi in the early morning rain to catch a water taxi to get across the channel to San Vicente. In San Vicente we then waited for a bus to take us on north past the coastal town of Canoa, and they dropped us off along the highway at the entrance of a long, rutted dirt road. We were then picked up by the Rio Muchacho jeep and rode 8 km inland to the farm.

We arrived in time for a breakfast of fruits, yuca bread and granola, served in a bowl made from the shell of the mate fruit, with a spoon made from mate. Much of the food served on the farm is grown there, including the bananas, melon, pineapple, yuca, and coffee we had for breakfast.

There were about 12 volunteers working on the farm while I was there. They each pay $200 for a month of meals and lodging, and take organic farming classes in the afternoon, and work on the farm in the morning. Those at the table above are from Quebec, Germany, Virginia and Minnesota.

After breakfast we brought our bags to our cabins. I shared my cabin with the Spanish instructor, Alejandra. We were right on the river, with a small balcony, outdoor shower, self-composting toilet, and screened in area for beds.

Shower and sink at the entrance to the cabin

We jumped right into touring the farm, beginning with examining the worm compost beds pictured below

Above is a big bag filled with methane produced from the excrement of the animals on the farm. They use the methane to help provide energy for hot water.

Some of the volunteers were working with seedlings up at the huerta (garden)

Seedlings up close

A loofah plant

A volunteer from Germany and a guest (like me) named Mauricio showing off an incredible pepper in the garden



Mauricio and I then went on a walk with Oscar, a Ecuadorian who lives and works on the farm. He brought us back into the woods a ways to see this great tree with branches that grow downward and root into the ground.

We then went to help out in the kitchen. The cocinera (cook) was a spunky woman whom. I liked a lot. She kept telling jokes, which were a bit hard for me to follow in Spanish.

Oscar, Maurico and I de-podding beans

Tomate fruits soaking in water. We peeled these for juice.

Peeled tomates

A shelf of mate cups

A soup of potatoes, leaks and corn

The son of one of the cooks, standing near jars of seeds

The following day we went to the garden and picked veggies and banana leaves to take for lunch

We then went back to the kitchen to prepare lunch. Above I am in the process of running the banana leaf over a fire to soften it for wrapping our lunch inside.

The wrapped product (a tonga)

Oscar and I then headed out on horses to go and scout for monkeys. I was a bit nervous about horseback riding while pregnant, but my horse Costaño was very mellow, and stopped every few minutes to eat along the way.

Oscar pointing out a school that was built for children who live in this very rural area that can be unreachable by car during the months of the rainy season

He also pointed out many birds along the way

We stopped to eat lunch at this house owned by a 90-year-old woman. She was not home, but we sat on her porch to eat our tongas.

The ingredients inside the tonga: rice, beans, veggies, plantains, egg and peanut sauce

A poinsettia plant near our lunch spot

Banana and papaya plants

A little boy we met at the small swimming hole where we cooled off

Cows along the way

When we returned, Oscar's horse provided lunch for its babe

I walked around the farm a bit upon return to take more photos.

Cotton plant

Alejandra working with a volunteer on Spanish

The following morning I prepared to go milk cows with Oscar and Jill, a volunteer from Pennsylvania. In the photo below Jill is feeding the horses

One of the pigs on the farm. They do not raise them for meat, but rather use them for composting and producing methane and manure

A baby cow eating before it was our turn to try milking its mom

I was horrible at this, so I let Oscar take over. Thinking of my time ahead feeding my own babe, I gave the cow a pat

Jill giving it a shot

Our bounty of milk, waiting to be turned into cheese

While waiting for the cheese to begin forming, we went out to dig yuca out of the garden

The cheese beginning to congeal

We brought the yuca inside and peeled it, than shredded it, which turned it into a mushy pulp

Later we mixed molasses, raisins, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla with the yuca and patted the mixure down over banana leaves in a bowl

The yuca mixture was then put over a fire, and a small fire was built over the top in order to cook the mixture into a yuca cake

Oscar and a visitor from Lithuania sitting with the owner of the farm, Nicola

A volunteer from Denmark relaxing after lunch

A farm dog curled up in a cool spot

A solar-powered dehydrator for herbs and peppers

After lunch some of the volunteers and I were treated to "facial mask treatments" with local black clay by Oscar

Relaxing and letting the clay dry

We then headed down to the river to catch crayfish

On my last morning at the farm, I photographed these girls on their way to school

And I went down to clear a field with a few volunteers and helped plant yuca, corn and potatoes
Gathering a few tomatoes and peppers for the collection of their seeds

A good bye view of the main lodge

In the afternoon I caught the taxi boat back over to Bahía from San Vicente

And before catching the night bus back to Quito, I stopped at a small diner for grilled chicken and a Fanta. I was back to the world after a stay in what seemed to be the middle of no where (in a good kind of way).